Zumbathon fundraiser to be held in Mt. Pleasant

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Those who Zumba and those who don't are invited to attend a Zumbathon to help a former Mt. Pleasant woman battling melanoma.

The fundraiser will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Polish Falcon Club, 33 Rumbaugh Ave., Mt. Pleasant.

Two years ago, Melanie Grimm of Pleasant Unity would have been a participant at such an event, but when she cut herself shaving the back of her leg in March 2011, she had no idea it would change her life forever.

When the cut didn't heal, Grimm went to her dermatologist. After testing the spot, Grimm was informed she had melanoma, otherwise known as skin cancer. Since then, she has been battling the disease that has spread to her groin, abdomen and brain stem. The 37-year-old has had eight surgeries over the past two years, five since the beginning of the year — culminating on March 9 with an above-the-knee amputation of her left leg.

“I talked with several doctors, including a doctor who was himself an amputee, before I made the decision to have the surgery,” Grimm said. “Right now, I am using a walker and a wheelchair to get around, and on April 11 I will see the doctor who will be fitting me for my prosthesis. They still will have to treat me for the melanoma they found in my abdomen and groin.”

Prior to the amputation, Grimm had been a regular participant for the past three years in a Zumba class at the Regional Family YMCA of the Laurel Highlands. YMCA Zumba instructor Janell Klatt of Scottdale came up with the idea for the Zumbathon to benefit Grimm.

“She's been a friend of mine and she was one of my diehard Zumba people, and she is just such a wonderful person and I wanted to help her with her medical bills,” Klatt said. “Throughout all of this, she has just been very optimistic. I call her a warrior. She is an inspiration.”

Debbie Meshanski of Mt. Pleasant is helping with the event. Meshanski is both friend and employer to Grimm, who works at Diamond Pharmacy as the office manager.

“Melanie is a very giving and selfless person. Her life is spent helping other people. I think we all wanted to do something, anything, to try and help her get thru this extremely difficult time of her life. When Janell mentioned a Zumbathon as a fundraiser, we all jumped at the chance to get involved. It's been quite difficult having a wonderful friend like Melanie go through such a terrible ordeal. We all feel quite helpless, but this is giving all the people that know and care about Mel a chance to give back. We feel like we're doing something that will make a difference and help ease some of the burdens that have been placed on her, even if it's just the financial burdens. We can't get her leg back for her — but hopefully these funds we raise will take some of the mental stress away,” Meshanski said.

Grimm said although she has been off work since Feb. 20, Meshanski is making accommodations so that she will be able to work some from home until she is able to come back full time.

“They are absolutely wonderful to let me keep my job. I just don't know where I'd be if not for a boss like her,” Grimm said.

Klatt along with Missy Troxell will be instructing the Zumba sessions. Klatt said that people who want to participate in the Zumba part of the event do not need to have any experience.

“You can just come out and move. It is good for all ages. Zumba is for everybody,” Klatt said.

Meshanski said people do not have to Zumba to attend the event. There will be many activities other than Zumba, including a Chinese Auction with 60 baskets that have been donated to the cause. There also will be a 50/50 raffle and light refreshments.

“There will be plenty of guests that are just coming to support Melanie and say hello. But if you want to Zumba, come in your workout clothes, and it will be a great time,” Meshanski said.

There will be a $10 donation at the door, and children 5 and younger may attend for free.

“All proceeds of the Zumbathon go directly to pay Melanie's medical bills. We are expecting a good bit of people. Melanie is such a good person; she's touched a lot of people, and they just want to do what they can to help her through this difficult time. Melanie has such a good attitude about things and is always smiling. I can't wait to Zumba with her again, because I know she will do it again eventually,” said friend Pamela McConnell of Mt. Pleasant Township, who is helping with the event.

Grimm is very grateful for the support she is getting from her friends.

“At this time, when you need your family and you need your friends, I am just so humbled by them and cannot thank them enough,” she said.

For those who would like to help Grimm but are unable to attend, Meshanski's brother, Jim Shireman set up a website for people who would like to make a secure donation to Grimm. The address is: www.giveforward.com/giveformel.

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.

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